In a sense, there is no standout song on Get Happy. In another, equal sense, all or the songs are standouts. The strategy of the LP seems to be to deny its status as "an album," and to underscore its intent of being just a collection of songs, with no overbearing thematic or conceptual linkage.
Get Happy is Elvis Costello's fourth record — a barrage of melodies, hooks, clever arrangements and quick riffs, all designed immediately to grab the listener's attention, and then to disappear. Of course, the most initially striking thing about the LP is that it contains ten songs per side (about twice the current average for rock albums). And when the cover-sticker proclaims "20 Hits! 20!!," it is not far from the truth. Every song packs a deft punch, and then is gone before you can ask what it was called.
Elvis' two chief influences on Get Happy are Motown ("I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down," "I Stand Accused") and reggae. Following his production of the Specials' first LP, Elvis seems to have picked up some or that group's reggae-ska appeal. The interplay between the Jackson 5-esque "Love for Tender" and the reggae-pop of "Human Touch" brings an exhilarating charge.
There are other things happening on the alhum as well. "Beaten to the Punch" is as out-and-out a rocker as Elvis has ever recorded. The ballad "New Amsterdam" flows with quickly-breathed sentiment. The slower "Riot Act" is as beautiful as almost anything on Abbey Road. On all of the tracks, the Attractions are freer and more present than ever, proving their simultaneous instrumental diversity and intensity.
The record closes on a high-beat, with "High-Fidelity," again a reminder of the pre-concept album, pre-quadrophonic days of rock recording. All in all, Get Happy is a very good thing for New Wave, in that its twenty songs (most around two minutes in length) will keep other important new artists mindful or the values of brief, compact, hook-laden compositions. Elvis Costello has yet to let his listeners down, and on his latest LP he issues a call not only to "get happy," but to "get delirious."